Thingamabobbercane revisited

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:21 PM GMT on November 08, 2006

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In my blog last week, I discussed Thingamabobbercane, an oddball cyclone which had characteristics of both a tropical cyclone and extratropical cyclone. I referred to it as a subtropical storm, which the Glossary of Meteorology defines thusly: A cyclone in tropical or subtropical latitudes (from the equator to about 50°N) that has characteristics of both tropical cyclones and midlatitude (or extratropical) cyclones. I gave the storm the name Thingamabobbercane because although it fit the technical definition of a subtropical storm, it didn't look like a typical subtropical storm. In particular, it formed at 41 N latitude over very cold waters of 16-18C, which is unusually cold and far north for a subtropical storm. Well, there are some meteorologists who disagree with my classification of the storm as subtropical, and believe Thingamabobbercane had virtually no tropical characteristics. A detailed day-by-day analysis posted on storm2k.org argues that Thingamabobbercane was an extratropical cyclone that underwent a process known as warm seclusion. In the seclusion process, a strong extratropical cyclone draws in warm air from the south, and latent heat of condensation from the cyclone's intense precipitation makes this air even warmer. This extra-warm air spirals into the center of the low and wraps around to the west side, where it is pinched off. As result, one has an isolated "warm core" center where deep convection builds and spiral banding can occur. However, unlike a hurricane, there is no eyewall, and no cloud-free eye created by sinking air (subsidence) in the center. The eye-like feature in an extratropical cyclone undergoing warm seclusion has upward moving air, and is merely the center where the surface winds spiral into. Spiral bands of convection can develop in the warm air near the center, mimicking the spiral bands of a hurricane. If these convective bands become intense, subsiding air on the flanks of the bands may create subsidence that warms and dries out the surrounding air, creating cloud-free regions near the center that may give it a more eye-like appearance. I flew through a number of these type of systems in 1989 as a member of the ERICA field program, and noted in my blog on the Blizzard of 2006 that the storm had a warm seclusion.


Figure 1. Image of Thingamabobbercane from Nov. 1, 2006, taken by NASA's Terra satellite. Image credit: NASA's Earth Observatory web page.

Steve Gregory, who did an awesome job blogging for wunderground.com during last year's unbelievable hurricane season, and has moved on to form his own hurricane consulting firm for business and industry, weatherinsite.net, had this to say about Thingamabobbercane:

I think that just having a transitory very low level warm core doesn't warrant a system being called sub-tropical. We clearly do not want to name a Nor'easter simply because it may form a low level warm core and 'eye' for a day or two. These super storms, or 'Perfect Storms', usually get their very own 'names' anyway ("The Great Blizzard of 78', etc). I think most everyone agrees that sub-tropical storms evolve out of old occluded extra-tropical lows that typically drift southward, completely isolate themselves from any frontal systems, and start becoming warm core--and usually over water above 20°C or warmer. And, they have life spans of many days as they transition, and they either remain sub-tropical or go all tropical with absolutely no cold or warm fronts even remotely close to them.

Whereas these briefly lived specimens, especially when at such high latitudes (over 40N) and truly cold water (15 deg is cold), never really fully detach from frontal boundaries, do the classic counterclockwise track motion under the upper level 500mb low embedded, all of which is embedded within full latitude long wave TROFS--and then transition quickly into non-tropical systems that generate new frontal based surface lows--just shouldn't be called sub-tropical. And especially if the warm core remains below 5,000 ft.

We need a new classification for these types of half breeds that get some of their energy through the latent heat release process etc, but are 'clearly' not what we think of as sub-tropical storms that will either stay that way, or go all tropical, or after a few days, get picked up by an upper TROF and pulled north where they transition back to a fully non-tropical low.

And here is what Senior Hurricane Specialist James Franklin from the National Hurricane Center had to say about the system in an email I received:

The system was of frontal origin, that much is clear. But I believe the frontal structure was eventually lost (no way to know for sure). The convective structure resembled a tropical, rather than subtropical cyclone, and the radius of maximum winds (based on QuikSCAT) was very close to the center, also more typical of tropical cyclones. It was, for most of its existence, under an upper low, typical of subtropical cyclones. However, it was developing a modest mid to upper lever warm core, moving toward tropical structure. So structurally, on balance, it was more tropical than subtropical.

However - it was over sub 18C water, and part of the definition of a tropical cyclone is that it originates over tropical or subtropical waters. This one didn't, so it's not a tropical cyclone by our operational definition, even though it had some of the characteristics of one.

Our classification system is a convenience for man, but Nature is not the slightest bit interested in our classifications of cyclones. There is a complete spectrum of storms between extratropical and tropical. There are cyclones that have similarities to tropical cyclones in structure - even share some of their energetics, polar lows are an example of such a beast, and maybe it is unfair to exclude them based on their location of origin. I, however, don't sense a groundswell of opinion to strike the "originates over tropical or subtropical waters" from our definition. It has, on the whole, served us well.

So, take your pick of these ideas on what Thingamabobbercane was. We'll never know for sure, since there were no direct measurements of its structure by research aircraft. It will remain as a mysterious and beautiful example of the endless variety of weather on our planet.

There is nothing going on in the tropical Atlantic today, nor is there forecast to be any activity over the next six days. While this remains true, I will be posting blogs every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Jeff Masters

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398. heatmieser
2:23 PM GMT on November 10, 2006
sorry repost.... should have read all of the posts
397. heatmieser
2:22 PM GMT on November 10, 2006
here is an interesting storm on saturn

"The colossal storm, with a well-developed eye, marks the first time a truly hurricane-like storm has been detected on a planet other than Earth,"

http://news.yahoo.com/photo/061109/photos_sc/2006_11_09t175916_434x450_us_space_saturn
396. TayTay
1:47 PM GMT on November 10, 2006
I'm more amazed by this storm than Wilma. Wilma too longer to organise before she went through rapid deepening. This storm was a blob on the map two nights ago.
395. Patrap
1:18 PM GMT on November 10, 2006
The Saturn System..quite impressive...
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 420 Comments: 127536
394. Patrap
1:16 PM GMT on November 10, 2006
The Great Red Spot on Jupiter is over 350 years Old.A cyclone that would easily span the Earth..4 times over.o
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 420 Comments: 127536
393. kerneld
1:11 PM GMT on November 10, 2006
"Measuring 5,000 miles (8,000km) across, the storm is the first hurricane ever detected on a planet other than Earth."

Nice.

A late season huricane with 0 potential for loss of life or property damage
392. CybrTeddy
1:09 PM GMT on November 10, 2006
WTH Chabi went from TD to TS to CAT 4 in only a few advisorys THATS way Faster than Wilma!
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23565
391. Patrap
1:07 PM GMT on November 10, 2006
Hey aqua...WU mail me ...LOL
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 420 Comments: 127536
390. DrDeath
12:59 PM GMT on November 10, 2006
interesting

Huge 'hurricane' rages on Saturn

Link

389. aquak9
12:58 PM GMT on November 10, 2006
(dang-blasted wishcasters!)

just teasin, Patrap!
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 163 Comments: 25729
388. Patrap
12:49 PM GMT on November 10, 2006
The Saturn storm seems to be trending er..uh...WEST!
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 420 Comments: 127536
387. Patrap
12:49 PM GMT on November 10, 2006
Awaken World..the weather waits for no one!
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 420 Comments: 127536
386. 147257
11:40 AM GMT on November 10, 2006
Freak One-Eyed Monster Storm Spotted on Saturn

just read it here is a link to the short video Link
Member Since: August 2, 2005 Posts: 7 Comments: 68
385. TayTay
10:34 AM GMT on November 10, 2006
So, it went from a TD to a TS to a Cat. 1 to Cat. 4 in 24 hours?
384. Wishcasterboy
7:35 AM GMT on November 10, 2006
What is with these freak storms!?
383. Wishcasterboy
7:34 AM GMT on November 10, 2006
They are so screwed.
382. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
7:29 AM GMT on November 10, 2006


didn't we see this before already, I think it was two weeks ago?
Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 50 Comments: 44716
381. Inyo
3:28 AM GMT on November 10, 2006
Posted By: Trouper415 at 9:23 PM GMT on November 09, 2006.
Hey Inyo, what do you think the chances are of central/northern California seeing a storm the size that flooded Washington and Oregon this winter bsaed on what just recently happened and what you said about the jet falling south.

THanks


My guess would be that it is very likely that a similar amount of rain will fall in California, but depending on the strength of El Nino, it could be concentrated south of Monterey or so. During stronger el ninos, Southern California seems to get pounded but sometimes northern california is relatively dry. If it remains moderate, I'll bet there will be flooding on the Russian River in mid december, unless el nino weakens, I think heavy rain will fall in So-Cal starting around Christmas and continuing through spring but punctuated by at least one period where it is dry for several weeks. I also think it is less likely than average for a cold snap to occur... due to El Nino. That cold we had last year in March was typical of La Nina, even though it was weakening by then.
Member Since: September 3, 2002 Posts: 42 Comments: 873
380. HIEXPRESS
3:15 AM GMT on November 10, 2006
Posted By: Patrap at 9:19 PM EST on November 09, 2006.
Looks like another severe event next Tues for us..the GFSx shows Link

Save some for us in FL - don't hog all the weather. More lurk & work tomorrow. Stay Tropical. Peace. Out.
Member Since: October 13, 2005 Posts: 4 Comments: 2156
378. pottery
2:33 AM GMT on November 10, 2006
Well I'm out too. Have a nice one everybody, and may you all dream of..........TUNNELS hahahah
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24022
377. hurricane23
2:32 AM GMT on November 10, 2006
Good evening,

Iam still working on my new website and i wanted to know everyone's thoughts so far.

Leave thoughts in my guest book.

Adrian's Weather
Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13626
376. kmanislander
2:31 AM GMT on November 10, 2006
gnite all
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15725
375. kmanislander
2:31 AM GMT on November 10, 2006
Hi there Adrian

will check it out tomorrow. Gotta turn in now and get ready for the action starting tomorrow !
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15725
374. JUSTCOASTING
2:29 AM GMT on November 10, 2006
Hello from Fl everyone what is going on tonight?
Member Since: August 15, 2006 Posts: 2 Comments: 666
373. Patrap
2:29 AM GMT on November 10, 2006
Okay..ginght sandcrab
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 420 Comments: 127536
372. kmanislander
2:29 AM GMT on November 10, 2006
for anyone travelling here in the next few days

Pirates Week !!

Link
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15725
371. hurricane23
2:28 AM GMT on November 10, 2006
kmanislander check your mail!
Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13626
370. kmanislander
2:27 AM GMT on November 10, 2006
well guys thats it for me for tonight.
Had a really good time catching up with you all.
Pirates Week starts tomorrow so have to get a good nights rest LOL
Big party tomorrow night with street dancing etc.
Ah the Tropics !!
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15725
369. sandcrab39565
2:27 AM GMT on November 10, 2006
Kman, I will make a good note of that. Thanks Ok all have a good nite. Pat I will let ya know if I can get the schedule together for the other discussion.
Member Since: June 25, 2006 Posts: 36 Comments: 9972
368. kmanislander
2:25 AM GMT on November 10, 2006
will keep you in mind Crab.If you get back down this way and want a good dive let me know. I have friends in the business who will take you out
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15725
367. Patrap
2:25 AM GMT on November 10, 2006
Shower then the rack for me.Ill see ya sandcrab.Hungry too.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 420 Comments: 127536
366. pottery
2:24 AM GMT on November 10, 2006
Hi there BAHA.
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24022
365. sandcrab39565
2:23 AM GMT on November 10, 2006
Kman, need anyone with a lot of diving and sailing and Emergency Management backgroud let me know I also am very familiar with FEMA regs. LOL
Member Since: June 25, 2006 Posts: 36 Comments: 9972
361. BahaHurican
2:20 AM GMT on November 10, 2006
Good night all,

Weather was great here today - sunny clear skies with few clouds and relatively light breezes. REally this is typical late November early December weather here, which suggests to me that we haven't much left to expect of the tropics. I suppose now we have to turn our eyes to the NW as the source of the weather disturbances that will influence our weather patterns. Typical winter.
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 21458
360. Patrap
2:19 AM GMT on November 10, 2006
Looks like another severe event next Tues for us..the GFSx showsLink
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 420 Comments: 127536
358. kmanislander
2:18 AM GMT on November 10, 2006
Pottery

Too far South and too late in the year.
maybe a little rain from the Northern edge of it but thats about all is my guess
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15725
355. pottery
2:16 AM GMT on November 10, 2006
You guys see anythung in that wave east of the Islands on the equator?Looks to be loads of rain, and very low shear.........
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24022
354. sandcrab39565
2:16 AM GMT on November 10, 2006
I worked there Kman but it was short and sporatic with cruise lines. I never could live there
Member Since: June 25, 2006 Posts: 36 Comments: 9972
353. sandcrab39565
2:15 AM GMT on November 10, 2006
I am trying to do some re-scheduling myself but still working on it will know by mid week next week.
Member Since: June 25, 2006 Posts: 36 Comments: 9972
352. kmanislander
2:14 AM GMT on November 10, 2006
Crab

did you ever work here or just visit ?
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15725
351. Patrap
2:14 AM GMT on November 10, 2006
Will do pottery,Manta rays..big Graceful sea forms for sure
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 420 Comments: 127536
348. lobcarl
2:12 AM GMT on November 10, 2006
Knew I wouldn't get answered. I wll fade back into the shadows.

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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